For Victor Ortiz, winning was supposed to be a mere formality, as it usually is in a sport where the results seem preordained. Ortiz was already penciled in as the opponent for Golden Boy’s prized asset, Saul Alvarez, in a much discussed September pay-per-view, but plans were scuttled when Ortiz proved second best to an unheralded and ultimately more resilient Josesito Lopez at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, last night.
The finish–unexpected if not altogether shocking, given the mercurial career of the unpredictable Ortiz–came at the end of nine punishing rounds, when a broken jaw forced the 25-year-old to call it a night. Ortiz, who seemed to take his previous defeat, a bizarre knockout at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, with a mere shrug and a grin, clearly felt the emotional sting this time. Perhaps it was the big payday slipping from his grasp, or maybe, finally, he realized that life in the ring would remain forever unforgiving.
It was a lively affair from the start, with both fighters having their moments in an entertaining opening session. First it was Ortiz, forcing his smaller opponent back with heavy combinations, though the underdog was quick to answer back, and surprisingly inflicting the most damage of the opening round when he caught Ortiz, 29-4-2 (22), with a heavy left hook moments before the bell.
The second frame featured more of the same back-and-forth action, as did the third, with Ortiz forcing the issue at times and scoring with hard left hands, only to see Lopez, 30-4-0-1(18), storm back with clean left hooks and rights. Before the fight, the feeling was that Ortiz would be too strong for Lopez, normally a junior welterweight, though in these early rounds, Lopez managed to take the fire well. When the going did get uncomfortable, he cleverly tied up his more muscled foe.
Lopez, Riverside, California, was forced to hold more in the fourth round, with the power of Ortiz perhaps starting to tell, and the pattern continued into fifth, when the underdog was caught with a hard uppercut in close. A clinch immediately followed, and in a moment of frustration, Ortiz lost his composure–and the advantage–when he smacked his unsteady foe in the back of the head with a foolish right hand.
Lopez, dropped by the blow, met with the ringside physician while he gathered his senses, and, after taking a couple of much needed minutes to recover, came back in a fiery manner. Ortiz reacted in kind, and the last minute of the round saw both fighters letting their hands go before the appreciative Staples Center crowd. More give-and-take action followed in the sixth, with Lopez having the better of the early going, only for Ortiz to respond strongly.
The pace slowed somewhat to start the seventh, though the action picked up half way through the round, with Ortiz driving Lopez into the ropes. For an instant, Ortiz, 25, backed off, and in the defining moment of the contest, Lopez confidently gestured for his foe to bring it on. Ortiz was willing and paid the price, with Lopez driving the favored man back, before landing a heavy hook, right hand, combination. The blows changed the tenor of the fight–and perhaps the career of Victor Ortiz–as he backed up quickly, avoiding exchanges for the remainder of the round. Upon sitting down on his stool, he whispered something to trainer Danny Garcia, presumably that his jaw had just been injured.
The eighth saw Ortiz using his jab to try and buy time and score points. Lopez countered well, landing a couple of sharp uppercuts. Unlike the earlier rounds, it was Ortiz looking to hold this time. In the corner between rounds, Garcia tried to lift his fighter’s confidence, telling him that he was doing well, and Ortiz, despite the injury, came back for another go, though once more he appeared uneasy about initiating exchanges. With seconds ticking away in the ninth, Ortiz made a play to steal the round only for Lopez, playing a bit of cat and mouse, to blast away off the ropes. A couple of clean counters had Ortiz backing away warily, and when the bell rang, Lopez, 25, was on the chase. It was the final action of what was an absorbing and spirited contest.
Lopez, small for a welterweight, will certainly not be fighting Saul Alvarez on September 15th, although his options are far brighter now than they were a day ago. A move back down to 140 pounds might be the wisest path, and given what he showed–a tremendous will and a sturdy chin–he could prove a handful to the junior-welterweight elite.
Where this leaves the planned September pay-per-view is anyone’s guess. Perhaps James Kirkland could be persuaded to reconsider accepting the date, and if healthy, a few more dollars might just make it worth his while. Golden Boy also promotes Erislandy Lara, but it appears they don’t feel fully comfortable in putting Alvarez up against the Cuban’s skills just yet. There’s also Carlos Molina, who has made his desire to square off against Alvarez quite clear, though with a tricky style, he more than likely won’t be hearing his phone ring.
In the co-feature, Lucas Matthysse, 31-2-0-1 (29), was just too strong for a game Humberto Soto, finishing the classy Mexican with a series of power shots in the waning seconds of the fifth round. The matchup featured a perfect mesh of styles, with Soto’s precise skills going up against the heavy-handed pressure of the naturally bigger Argentinean.
Early on, the edge in technique was the difference for Soto, as he circled away, picking his spots to beat Matthysse to the punch and score with accurate combinations. Despite being outgunned, there was nothing powder-puff about Soto’s work. Still, Soto, now 58-8-2-1 (34), never succeeded in dissuading his foe’s steady pressure. Little by little, Matthysse managed to close the gap and dig away, and Soto found himself on the canvas a split second after the bell rang to end the second session. Referee Raul Caiz signaled that there was no knockdown, though it was a clear sign that when Matthysse got close, he would do damage.
The third saw Matthysse walk through Soto’s best work, as he closed the distance with more regularity, driving Soto against the ropes, while banging heavy hooks to the body, and thudding right hands upstairs. The fourth was more of the same, with the steam slowly going from Soto’s legs, though he did manage to back Matthysse off for a moment late in the round. The respite, however, was brief, and in the fifth, Matthysse, Buenos Aires, Argentina, proved much too strong. Soto, now a more stationary target, was forced to try and clinch at times to slow the action, only to get banged around by short shots in close.
A hard right hand started the finishing sequence, followed by another right, a left, and a final right that sent Soto, Tijuana, Baja Clifornia, Mexico, crashing along the ropes. Although Soto managed to climb off the deck, he never looked completely steady, and after being walked to his corner after the bell, his seconds wisely called an end to the fight.